» more from Apocalypse 2012

The Mayans

The ancient Mayan civilization – once an empire whose sphere of influence stretched from Central Mexico to Guatemala – is widely known for its advanced calendaring system. Originating as far back as the 5th century B.C.E., the calendar ends on December 21st, 2012. The mystery-shrouded meaning of this date has served as fodder for doomsday prophets worldwide.
But before you run out wearing your cardboard sign necklace, note that the collapse of ancient Mayan civilization was reportedly self-inflicted. According to Mayan scholars, non-productive members of society such as the aristocracy and priesthood exhausted their resources. Yet millions of people today trust them with an end of the world prediction. If they were prophetic, wouldn’t they have foreseen the implosion of their own society, and worked to avoid it?

While Dec. 21, 2012 is the last date on the Mayan calendar, no mention of catastrophe was ever mentioned by the Maya. Whether or not you believe in doomsday 2012, Mayan history does warn against ignoring signs our own demise.

Photo: Manuel Cohen | Getty Images